Philip Pullman’s Award winning His Dark Materials novels have always had undeniable potential for on screen adaption. What they have not had, as of yet is a particularly successful interpretation to do them justice. Since the under performance of the 2007 Golden Compass film adaptation, avid fans of the fantasy series wouldn’t be blamed for fearing that studios would be uninterested in re-adapting the property, anytime in the foreseeable future.
Sometimes complex content such as His Dark Materials simply cannot be optimally actualized with the movie format; be it limitations due to time frames, range of achievable installments or ideal talent interest/availability. Hence, the news that the BBC has commissioned a TV series adaptation of the books should be exciting for many fans.
The three Dark Materials novels – “Northern Lights/The Golden Compass”, “The Subtle Knife” and “The Amber Spyglass” – follow the young and tenacious Lyra Belacqua in her parallel world where your soul has an anthropomorphic animal personification that never leaves your side – and there is a sinister plot that involves child kidnapping for magical experimentation. The books, that have been published in over 40 languages and sold 17.5 million copies worldwide, span several parallel worlds (one of which is our own) and explore themes such as science, magic, and theology – confronting some of the most existential questions of humanity. The plot leads Lyra and her friend Will on a quest that sees existence itself threatened by celestial war.
The BBC have commissioned the new series from Bad Wolf – the new production company of the former Doctor Who producers Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner. Pullman himself is fully behind the series and will be executive producing along with New Line Cinema (The Lord Of The Rings). The author was quoted by Radio Times in regard to the project:
“It’s been a constant source of pleasure to me to see this story adapted to different forms and presented in different media. It’s been a radio play, a stage play, a film, an audio book, a graphic novel — and now comes this version for television…….. I’m delighted at the prospect of a television version of ‘His Dark Materials.’ I’m especially pleased at the involvement of Jane Tranter, whose experience, imagination, and drive are second to none. As for the BBC, it has no stronger supporter than me. I couldn’t be more pleased with this news.”
Although film adaptations of fantasy book series are a current staple of the movie industry, The Golden Compass (starring Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman) failed to achieve the same kind of success as the Harry Potter or recent J.R.R. Tolkien adaptations. Hopes for the Golden Compass movie sequels were subsequently dashed and many book fans were underwhelmed by the decision to gloss over some of the darker and controversial themes present. However, a TV series format should be ample opportunity to explore these themes more extensively and allow more scope for character development and detail in terms of the complicated plot – something that should please the fan base.
With the notable collection of production talent involved, this series should have all the ingredients needed to do His Dark Materials justice. The only real concern is the limits of budget since, in an ideal world, the fantasy elements and action scenes would be on the level with Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings – something that is not as easy to achieve on with the budget of a BBC TV series. However, the success of recent BBC genre literature TV adaptations (like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell) bodes well for this project, too.
His Dark Materials will begin filming in Wales in the foreseeable future. We’ll bring you more information as it becomes available.
Source: Radio Times